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21,000 PEOPLE MAKE THEIR VOICE HEARD

We were asked what we thought about plans to run down services at the Lagan

Valley Hospital - well here's our answer

by JULIE ANN SPENCE

Alderman Jeffrey Donaldson, The Mayor, Councillor Ronnie Crawford and Chairman of the Corporate Services Committee, Councillor Paul Givan, hand over the petition to Health Minister, Mr Michael McGimpsey.

Alderman Jeffrey Donaldson, The Mayor, Councillor Ronnie Crawford and Chairman of the Corporate Services Committee, Councillor Paul Givan, hand over the petition to Health Minister, Mr Michael McGimpsey.

WHEN the South Eastern Trust published their controversial proposals to close maternity services at the Lagan Valley Hospital they asked what local people thought.

This week they got their answer when a petition signed by over 21,000 people was handed over to Health Minister Michael McGimpsey.

The will of the people was clearly conveyed to the Health Minister by representatives from Lisburn City Council, who presented him with a petition - organised by the Ulster Star and Lisburn Council and signed by over 21,000 people protesting at plans to downgrade and cut services at the Lisburn hospital.

The Mayor, Councillor Ronnie Crawford, Chairman of the Council's Corporate Services Committee, Councillor Paul Givan and Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson met with Minister Michael McGimpsey to seek a commitment that the views of local people would be listened to and that expectant mothers in Lisburn would be assured of a full local maternity service. Speaking after the meeting, Mr Donaldson said the response from the Minister had been "positive" but warned the battle to 'Save Our Services' is far from over.

"The Minister was positive in his response about the prospects for at least a midwife lead maternity unit being provided for Lisburn," said Mr Donaldson. "This demonstrates that

our campaign is working and the Health authorities are recognising the strength of people power in fighting to save these vital services.

The Minister also confirmed he is now working with the South Eastern Trust to provide a major investment of some 60 million to upgrade medical facilities on the Lagan Valley site.

"This would undoubtedly help to secure the future of the hospital as a modern primary care facility with new operating theatres and equipment to celiver vital surgical and medical services for the local community. "The support of the community has been crucial in our campaign to secure the future of the Lagan Valley Hospital. However, whilst much progress has been made, we must not be complacent as this battle is not yet over," he warned.

"We must keep the pressure on both the Department and the Trust until such times as the final decisions are made and the future of our local hospital is assured."

During the meeting the Minister pledged that the views of all those involved would be taken into account in developing a way forward.

"The plans to drastically cut services at the Lagan Valley Hospital have been criticised by all sections of the community, all political representatives and perhaps most importantly the experts in this area, The Royal College of Midwives," added Councillor Paul Givan.

"The campaign is working and there are already indications that alternative proposals will be considered and we will continue to do all in our power to ensure that the future of Lagan Valley Hospital is secure."

The Save Our Services Campaign, which was launched earlier this year by The Star and Lisburn Council, has seen thousands of residents, businesses, community groups and medical professionals condemn the proposals by the South Eastern Trust for the Lagan Valley Hospital.

julieann.spence@jpress.co.uk

Ulster Star
24/10/2008